Anthro in the news 3/12/12

• News coverage of Iran contributes to misunderstanding
An article in the New York Times quotes cultural anthropologist William Beeman as saying that he believes The Times’s coverage has contributed to a dangerous public misunderstanding of the situation. Beeman is professor of cultural anthropology and chair of the anthropology department at the University of Minnesota and author of the book, The ‘Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other. The article provides a critique of The Times’ coverage of Iran’s nuclear program including that The Times has given too much space to Israeli proponents of an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, has failed to mention often enough that Israel itself has nuclear arms, has sometimes overstated the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has repeated the questionable assertion that Iran’s leaders seek the eradication of Israel, has failed to analyze the Iranian supreme leader’s statement that nuclear weapons are a ”sin,” and has published misleading headlines.

• Patriotism and voting in Iran
In a tv interview about the recent elections in Iran, William Beeman says: “When a population is under pressure from the outside, they do not rise up and overthrow their own government, they rally behind their leaders and this is, I think in this particular case when we take a look at the elections, I think we will find that the Iranian people have not been discouraged by the sanctions that have been leveled against them, but in fact have shown their patriotism and their love of their own country.”

• Relevance of anthropology debated
A symposium in honor of cultural anthropology professor Laura Nader, University of California at Berkeley, was held at the Berkeley campus. It was called “Anthropology in the World.” Two notable speakers were Governor Jerry Brown and Ralph Nader, consumer activist, frequent presidential contender, and sister of Laura. Ralph Nader talked about “Anthropology from Margaret Mead to 2012.” Coverage in the Sacramento Bee did not provide details on Governor Brown’s comments in the debate.

• Take that anthro degree and….
…become a world class figure skater. Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the only American ice dancing team to ever win the world championships. An article in the New York Times described their style, skills, and daily routine. It also mentioned that both are part-time students at the University of Michigan where she is double majoring in anthropology and Italian while he is majoring in political science. Both, however, are determined to bring home the gold at the 2014 Games in Russia.

…become a politician. Nick Clegg is the British Liberal Democrat Leader and the Deputy Prime Minister. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, he expresses shock to find hundreds of people in Britain are earning millions every year but paying little tax: “There are hundreds of people earning millions per year who are barely paying 20 per cent tax, forget 40 per cent, forget 50 per cent, forget 30 per cent. They are not even paying 20 per cent.” He is proposing a tycoon tax, a legal minimum tax rate that everyone should pay on their earnings. You may wonder where the blogger is going with this piece, so here you go: Clegg studied archaeology and anthropology at Robinson College, Cambridge University.

• Fear in the time of cholera in Philadelphia
A burial of remains of some Irish immigrants in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, marks the culmination of a 10-year research project to determine the fate of the workers who came from Ireland in June 1832 and were dead eight weeks later. While most died of cholera in an epidemic that swept the region, some were likely killed because of fear and prejudice. Physical anthropologist Janet Monge of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has studied the remains. She says the early theory that they died of cholera is only half true. They died, she says, because nearby townspeople had cholera and did not understand it. “Can you imagine being hit by a cholera epidemic, where you know somewhere between about 50 and 60 percent of the people that are alive at the moment will be dead, and in just a couple of days?” Her theory is: the cholera epidemic hits, so you blame the immigrants. News of the burial was also carried in The Irish Times with the headline, “Irishmen killed building America finally get proper burial.”

• Got/not milk for Ötzi
Ötzi, the so-nicknamed Neolithic man (also called the “Tyrolean Iceman”) whose 5,300 year-old body was found frozen in the Alps, was apparently lactose intolerant. Analysis of Ötzi’s body has also revealed that he had brown hair, brown eyes, bad knees, and Type O blood. Blogger’s note: as depicted in The New York Times article (Health section), the upper half of his body is unclothed which seems odd since I am pretty sure he was fully clothed. The photo, however, is credited to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, and they must know what they are doing because they have Ötzi. The Museum website does note that evidence indicates that he was wearing a fur cape. So why, I wonder, does the official photo show his upper body uncovered? In case you want to know more about Ötzi, visit the Museum’s website or follow Ötzi on Facebook.

• Rubber balls before Goodyear
The Times (London) picked up on an article in Latin American Antiquity by Michael Tarakian and Dorothy Hosler. Hosler is professor of archaeology and ancient technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While the “modern” world discovered the use of rubber only in 1839, many prehistoric groups in Mexico were well aware of rubber’s properties and used it to produce balls for ceremonial ball games. The oldest ball court known so far is in Chiapas and is dated to 1400 BCE.

• In memoriam
Peter Loizos, professor in the department of anthropology at the London School of Economics for over 30 years, died on March 2, at the age of 76 years. Loizos’s research focused on refugees in Cyprus. Loizos left a body of work that’s considered hugely influential, helped many others to enhance their own work, and earned the love of his friends. The Sunday Mail (Cyprus) spoke to people who knew Peter Loizos as a researcher during different stages of his professional life, were his students or were influenced by his work. “Peter is one of the most important contributors to anthropology who trained others to do the same,” said Yiannis Papadakis, an anthropologist at the University of Cyprus. Commenting on Loizos’ book on Cyprus, The Heart Grown Bitter, Papadakis said its importance lay in the fact “he used a different style, uncluttered by academic language, because he was very moved by a painful experience and decided he wanted to bring out this experience in a rather powerful way.” Papadakis added that, through his work and that of his students, Loizos put the anthropology of Cyprus on the academic map and also had a major impact on refugee studies.

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